For the first time, Humanist representatives will lay wreaths at the official Remembrance Sunday commemorations for Scotland and Northern Ireland. However a request for Humanists to be included in the UK national ceremony in London has been refused. Remembrance Sunday commemorates the contribution of British and Commonwealth servicemen and women in the World Wars and later conflicts.
Marilyn Jackson, spokeswoman for the Humanist Society of Scotland’s Edinburgh group, welcomed the recognition of Humanists in the parade and ceremony on November 14, saying, “Our previous request to lay a wreath was turned down, but we feel strongly that those with no religion who lost their lives in combat should be represented on Remembrance Sunday, so we kept on asking. We are delighted that Royal British Legion Scotland has invited us to participate this year and it will be an honour to have a contingent in the parade.”
The Scottish Humanists’ wreath features the Humanist logo and the message: “For those who gave their lives for us. We will remember them.”
Neil Griffiths, of Royal British Legion Scotland, which organises the Rememberance Sunday events, welcomed the inclusion of Humanist representatives for the first time: “We recognise that there are plenty of ex-servicemen and women who are Humanists. They respect the act of Remembrance and, as such, we had absolutely no objections to them taking part.”
The attitude towards Humanists was less inclusive in London. The UK government dismissed the British Humanist Association (BHA) request for Humanist representation at the commemoration at the national Cenotaph, citing “limited space at the Cenotaph”, plus the need to receive permission from the Royal Household, as reasons to continue the exclusion of representatives of Humanist servicemen and women.
“It is welcome that, for the first time, Humanists in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be included in official ceremonies on Remembrance Sunday,” said Andrew Copson, BHA chief executive. “But it is disappointing that Humanists have again been rejected from the Cenotaph. We know from our work with the UK Armed Forces Humanist Association the contribution non-religious servicemen and women make in this area and the desire to give thanks and mark the sacrifices of earlier generations is likewise not limited to those who believe in an afterlife.
“We believe it only appropriate that, just as the nation gathered and gathers together in times of national crisis, that the remembrance services commemorating those who fought and died for their country should be inclusive of all people.”